Oct 6, 2012; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears tailback Brendan Bigelow (5) rushes during the second half against the UCLA Bruins at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Bigelow is the Key to a Win on Saturday

Last year, Brendan Bigelow had a big night against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He ran for 160 yards, scored two touchdowns, and nearly led this Berkeley team to an upset over the best team in the Big Ten. The performance, which included two monster runs of 81 and 59 yards, was just a little short of the win as Ohio State clung on to a 35-28 win last year at the Horseshoe. The 81-yard rushing touchdown was the best run of the year. And it isn’t even that close.

Heading into this year, the Buckeyes won’t have any delusions. They will be keeping an eye out on the junior. And he knows it. “I’m pretty sure they know who I am now,” Bigelow smiled as a mass of huddled media members surrounded him during his post-practice interview session. “Everybody knows me now.”

Bigelow ran for 431 yards last season, with three touchdowns on only 44 carries. He was expected to break out this season, though the results haven’t been there quite yet. He has 140 yards on 34 carries and has yet to reach the end zone. That said, it’s early yet, and Bigelow is still recovering from surgery on his right knee this offseason.

“Just having more trust in it. Believing that it’s okay,” Bigelow mentioned in reference to his knee. He also said he needs to improve on his cutting abilities, field vision and blocking. He’s going to need to vastly improve from today to Saturday night if Cal wants to have a chance to win the game this coming week.

Bigelow is a key member of the offense. We know this. We also know that he’s important head coach Sonny Dykes’ game plan this weekend. Not many players can boast that they ran for nearly 200 yards against one of the top defenses in the league. I’m sure Sonny Dykes will want to get the player who ran so crisply and disrupted the Buckeye defense with ease in the backfield rather than the guy who hasn’t produced much to start the season.

“A D-minus,” Bigelow answered without hesitation when asked to grade himself through two games. “I’m pretty hard on myself. I like a challenge, so it’s definitely more difficult. But like I said, I’m just going to go in there and play my game and see what happens from there.”

I wouldn’t say his season has been that bad. Slow, maybe. Disappointing, probably. But it’s early yet. He is running at full speed, he admitted. At least there is that.

When we get down to brass tacks, this kid is a talent. We’ve seen him play well in the past, and in the first two games, he’s had his moments. Plenty of guys start the season slowly. It’s the nature of the beast. But no one can play slowly this weekend if they want to come out ahead on the scoreboard.

I personally don’t think Ohio State will be playing in the national championship game. I think they’ll stumble along the way, and I have more faith that a Pac-12 team will take on an SEC team this year in Pasadena. That said, Ohio State is a talented team that can play with anyone in the nation. In order for a rebuilding Cal team (who has a substantial amount of talent and potential and may not be as far away from a good season as most people would have you think) to win a game of this magnitude, Cal needs to play at their best. The only way for that to happen, especially if the defense is going to be the injured mess it has been so far, is for all the playmakers to go out and change the game. They have swing the momentum pendulum in Berkeley’s favor.

One of those players is Bigelow. He has the experience of dominating the same guys he saw a year ago. Also, as great as Goff has been, and as great as I think he’ll play this in this game, the only way for Cal to control the game is to have the running game work. That begins and ends with Bigelow.

“I can’t wait to go through north tunnel with the guys and come out here and play a good game.”

We hope so, Brendon. We hope so.

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